Painful loss for Cougars

Gauthier goes down with head injury

The Prince George Cougars have suffered greatly throughout their losing streak but Friday's result in Kelowna was especially painful.
A day after the firing of head coach Richard Matvichuk was announced, not only did the Cougars blow a 3-1 lead and get beaten 4-3 by the Kelowna Rockets but they lost starting goalie Taylor Gauthier to an injury.
The Rockets got three unanswered goals from Cayde Augustine, Nolan Foote and Mark Liwiski to win for the third time in nine games against the Cougars this season. It was the 12th-straight loss for the Cougars, spoiling the debut of Mark Lamb as the team's head coach.
Fifteen-year-old rookie goalie Tyler Brennan got called in off the bench to replace Gauthier 9:05 into the third period for the first WHL action of his career. That came with the Rockets on the power play and the game tied 3-3. Gauthier went down with an apparent head injury when he made contact with one of the Rockets during a goalmouth scramble. The Cougars were already without usual backup netminder Isaiah DiLaura, sidelined with a head injury after he got hit by a high shot in practice Monday.
The Cougars successfully killed the penalty but Liwiski pounced on a rebound that kicked off Brennan's pad after Michael Farren shot from the right side. Liwiski's gamewinner came 12:10 into the third period. Brennan stopped four of five shots he faced. The Cougars outshot the Rockets 32-25. James Porter picked up the win in net for Kelowna.
Josh Curtis scored two goals and Cole Moberg also scored for the Cougars, who took a 3-1 lead in the first period. Curtis connected on a Cats' power play at 19:08 of the period, 53 seconds after Foote scored his first of the game while shorthanded.
The Rockets (22-26-4-1) are clinging to the third and final playoff spot in the B.C. Division, (11 points ahead of the Cougars (16-31-4-2), who rank fifth in the division. The Cats remain eight points behind Seattle Thunderbirds for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. In Seattle, the T-birds lost 4-1 Friday to the Portland Winterhawks.
The Cougars haven't won since Jan. 12, when they beat the Rockets 4-0 at CN Centre to complete a two-game weekend sweep. They were 6-1-1-0 in games against Kelowna this season heading into Friday's game.
The Rockets also went through a coaching change this season. Adam Foote took over the bench Oct. 23 to replace Jason Smith, who was fired when the team got off to a 4-10-0-0 start.
The Cougars will play their next game Sunday in Langley (2 p.m.) against the Vancouver Giants.

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